Writer Jonathan Lethem took some time to join us in our secret video booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. He gave us a preview of his next novel, “Dissident Gardens,” which will be coming to bookstores in September.
“It’s about American leftists,” he explains in the video. “Specifically, a red-diaper baby generation trying to figure out what it all means, this legacy of American Communism.”
“It’s set in Queens and Greenwich Village, another New York neighborhood book, very much about the life of the city.... writing about Greenwich Village in 1958 was really a jump for me, it was as much of an imaginative leap as any of the more fantastical things I’ve done. But really exciting, too.”
While Lethem says that the book has consumed five years of his life, he’s actually quite prolific. In that time -- in addition to becoming the Disney professor of creative writing at Pomona College -- he’s published the essay collection “The Ecstasy of Influence,” a short book on the album “Stop Making Sense” by Talking Heads, and co-edited “The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick,” a nearly 1-000-page religious-philosophical exploration by the famed science fiction author.
He has published eight novels: “Chronic City,” “You Don’t Love Me Yet,” “The Fortress of Solitude,” “Gun, With Occasional Music,” “Amnesia Moon,” “As She Climbed Across the Table,”
“Girl in Landscape” and “Motherless Brooklyn,” which won the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction.
Still relatively new to Southern California, Lethem explains that he’s become fond of “the cultivated desert” and the region’s inland spaces. “I feel like I’m living in a kind of secret Western landscape, maybe the veneer of civilization has been laid very thin over the top.”
“I feel as if I’m living in a botanical fiction,” he adds. Lethem goes deeper into his inspiration, process and perception of Southern California in the video above.